There are few phrases that I dread hearing more than “good exposure.” “Good exposure” in it’s true and honest form, which it never is, has the intention of taking a seemingly tiny and comparatively insignificant platform and turning it into a career catalyst. Starring opposite George Clooney in a film is good exposure, obviously. Having your band open for The Rolling Stones also qualifies. But these are the no-brainers, these are the absolute once-in-a-lifetime things that come along that truly have the ability to send any person toward glowing success. These are the moments that everyone hangs around for with baited breath.
In my experience, however, the term gives me a feeling akin to licking envelopes for a charitable dinner party, calling it community service, and then getting my hours signed off in order to graduate high school. It’s bullshit, and ultimately I’m only doing it because someone told me to. The opportunities usually involve someone famous, as if their general proximity to you is going to give you automatic recognition somehow. The girls who get really confused about this whole situation are the ones that end up starring next to George Clooney in one scene with no lines and their breasts hanging out. This is pretty much any of the “actresses” who have appeared in the background of the HBO show “Entourage.”
One of the most excruciating jobs I allow myself to remember was for VH1’s “The Shot.” This was one of those godforsaken “me-too” shows that followed “America’s Next Top Model.” Except with “The Shot” the challenges were posed to group of competing photographers and their leader was Russel James, a “big photographer” who used to shoot for Victoria’s Secret and Sports Illustrated. My booker asked if I wanted to do it, citing that although it didn’t pay anything it would be “good exposure.” And as jaded as I am, I fell for it like a sucker punch because as much as I know this job will amount to nothing in my career as a model there’s still this hope, this twinkling of possibility this is your chance, your moment to be really discovered. We were also promised the opportunity to shoot with Russel ourselves.
The call time was 7 am. I showed up, waited about thirty minutes and then got thrown into the chair to get my hair done. Other models were there, about 6 of us, alternating between sitting around and reading magazines and getting our hair and makeup done. The theme of the day was “Earth, Sun, Moon, Stars” and this (as the Moon and the Stars) meant that I was to have a 3 foot tall Marie Antoinette-esq wig. I cannot say enough about the talent of the hair stylist, who was exceptionally talented. The problem was that I was done with hair and makeup by 10 am and there was no indication as to when I was going to be shot.
The clock rolled on, and as it did the pins affixing the wig to my head began to dig into my scalp, and the hair the pins went through to get to my scalp began to make my head ache with a dull, constant throbbing. By the time 4 pm rolled around I was going bat shit crazy. It was like being trapped on an elevator of a 54 story building for a few days and not knowing if anyone was ever going to find you or if you’d just fall to your death first. I was falling, and falling fast. My calls to the agency went from quiet complaints to insane yelps of frustration and agony. I was trying desperately not to unleash the fury on the production team but I snapped.
“Excuse me? Hi, do you have ANY idea what time I’m going to shoot.”
[Blank look and a flip through a clipboard] “Hmmmm…”
“Because, I know this sounds ridiculous and it’s just a wig but…”
“Oh…yeah…well, we will try to get you on there as soon as possible.”
[I start to cry] “This thing has been on for fucking 10 hours and I can’t fucking do this.”
[I start to yell] “You know, I’m just going to fucking leave! I can’t do this. This is fucking ridiculous!”
I think I attempt to apologize and tell this woman that I’m normally not like this and I have never yelled at anyone at a job before, but I doubt she believes this. I walk away and stand with my chin resting on a white cement wall, watching a group of children play baseball in the park across the street. I think about when I was a child with absolute careless freedom. I grit my teeth and hot tears stream down my face. The makeup team is really going to appreciate this.
Around 7:30 at night I am told to get ready to head on out. “Ready” means stripping down to a nude colored thong because, yes, I am to be shot topless, covered in body paint. In this instance, however, the body paint is actually yellow and purple frosting. It’s melting quality was intended to give the photographers a hard time while shooting because this happens in real life…never. I stand in front of Vincent Longo, a fairly famous makeup artist, and he begins to smear the cold frosting on my body with sponges. I’m delirious and he’s delirious and we keep snicking and giggling and he calls me “La leopard la luna” over and over again.
My photographer wants to shoot me like the moon coming over the horizon or half of my faces is the dark side of the moon and the other half isn’t. They prop me up on a wooden crate which affords me no movement whatsoever. I look like a terrible model and the photographer shoots around me. I hope that the cameras aren’t relaying this to TV land because that, in addition to my boobs hanging out, is certainly not good for my career.
When we finally finish shooting, someone hands the camera to Russel to keep up on their end of the deal. I look like a Laker cupcake buried under a powdered wig. No photographer can make this look good, not Mario Testino, not Annie Lebowitz, not even Terry Richardson. But we shoot anyway because that’s why I came here for, and that’s why it means nothing. I am finally done. Someone helps take off my wig. I wipe the frosting off as best I can before I put on my clothes. I go home and a take a shower. I get in bed and I smell like sugar and for three days I sweat sugar and nothing ever EVER came of any of it.